Tuesday, July 19, 2011

It's your career - come up with a plan!

This morning I talked to a client who has been asked to take on additional responsibilities in a fairly complex work environment. She is accountable at some level to three different executives within the organization. She asked for advice on setting expectations and negotiating resource and compensation agreements with the various parties.

We focused on her responsibility for taking charge of her career. Since the three executives had different interests, it didn't make sense to start by asking them what they wanted. She had to outline her goals and vision for the new initiative she had been asked to lead. What did she want to accomplish? What resources were needed? We also agreed that trying to come up with a perfect plan was not productive. A "B+" plan followed up with "A+" execution is always better than the other way around. Once she had her thoughts worked out, she would present the proposed plan to the three executives.

To help the executives get to yes in endorsing her proposal, she would build on the status quo to the extent possible and provide for reviewing results and making any necessary adjustments at set intervals. This approach would lower the risks of going forward with the new program. This is the approach I have used in many situations, with good results. The benefits of asking for what you need to be successful are spelled out in this recent article.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

High School Reunion

I am going to a major high school reunion this September, and I have been re-connecting with classmates in preparation for this significant milestone. As we have shared stories and experiences, we haven't talked about professional success. That has not seemed at all important. Instead, we have focused on the core values that have guided our lives and their roots in our common background growing up.

As you pursue your career goals, don't lose sight of the really important things - ethical standards, concern for others, the common good, among other values. Stay true to yourself, and you will have wonderful stories to share with your classmates years in the future.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Technology waits for no one!

I naively assumed that technology would stand still for me when I bought a new smart phone last week. I thought that the transition from my old phone would be simple because both phones ran on operating systems from the same tech company. Wrong! I had to start all over again after spending hours on tech web sites trying to figure out how to make the new phone sync with basic and essential applications.

There is a broader lesson here for all of us. The speed of change seems to be accelerating. The status quo lasts for what seems a nanosecond. Built-in obsolescence in our technology, our careers and even our view of the world is a fact of life.

To be competitive and effective, we need to stay open to innovation, push out of our comfort zones and avoid assuming we know the answer when the question may well have changed. And, of course, do the research before you buy the new phone!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Try a pilot test

You are trying to change the way your organization works. You may want to improve a process or a communications tool. Not everyone sees the status quo as a problem or agrees with your solution, however. One way to advance your idea against this resistance is to lower the stakes at the beginning. Propose that you do a pilot project.

A pilot project is a way to test your idea with a limited scope. It is usually easier to get buy-in for a test-run or prototype when people don't have to make an all-or-nothing commitment. You still need to plan carefully and execute well on the pilot test to show the merits of your proposal. The important thing is getting the chance to put your proposal into action and to show the benefits it brings.

The fear of change is a fact of life. Don't fight it head-on. Make people more comfortable and move you proposal forward by saying "Let's try it out."